Valerie Hall firmly believes in the power of Red Ribbon Week. Hall, Interim Dean of Students and Criminal Justice Professor at Florida Memorial University (FMU), is passionate about delivering the “Love Yourself. Be Drug Free.” message to FMU’s diverse student population in her classroom and school wide. With the full support of FMU President Dr. Rosalyn Clark-Artis, Hall organized Red Ribbon Week activities for students at the University. No stranger to prevention, Dean Hall has worked with Informed Families for the last seven years to deliver healthy messages to youth in the South Florida Community.
“I know Red Ribbon Week makes a difference,” said Hall. “The campaign is just as relevant to college students as it is to youth in K-12 schools. Behaviors that begin in middle school, high school and college become habits as kids grow older. Our children do not grow up overnight and these problems do not just go away. I try to get our students to understand that living for today doesn’t always work; they need to think about their future.”
FMU, a historically African American university, boasts students from as far away as Nigeria and Senegal, in addition to pupils from the Caribbean Islands, the West Indies, and various cities across the country. Many of the students, especially those coming from other countries, have not been exposed to drug prevention education; these students learn about the importance of a drug free lifestyle from Hall. Likewise, those who have been previously exposed to prevention messages greatly benefit from the reinforcement offered by Dean Hall.
Hall engages in discussions with her students about making healthy choices, the consequences of drug use and healthy alternatives. This Red Ribbon Week, she introduced pledge cards containing this year’s Red Ribbon theme, “Love Yourself. Be Drug Free,” and a promise to be drug free.
“After class, I collected 45 signed Red Ribbon Week pledge cards from my students committed to living drug free,” said Hall. “To my surprise, throughout the day, my students brought in their friends and girlfriends or boyfriends to join them in taking the pledge. They took it very seriously, actually. I collected a total of 116 pledge cards that day.”
One student in particular demonstrated the tremendous impact made by Dean Hall’s Red Ribbon Week presentation.
“A young lady walked up behind me after signing the pledge,” said Hall. “She said, ‘you know that really meant a lot…what you said. I do smoke marijuana.’ When I asked this student about her thought process when signing the pledge card, she replied that she smokes because she has ‘these nerves’ and she gets edgy sometimes. She went on to say that she’s smoked pot as frequently as four times a day. However, since that day when the student signed the pledge, she hasn’t smoked at all. It’s been several weeks. It hasn’t been easy. It is a process, but she’s doing well.”
Hall was recognized for her work during Red Ribbon Week by FMU President Dr. Rosalyn Clark-Artis in her Monday Message as well as on the University’s website.
A former Community Affairs Officer in the Miami Dade Police Department who worked with long-time Informed Families supporter Major James DiBernardo, Dean Hall has partnered with Informed Families over seven years in various capacities. We are so fortunate to have committed professionals like Dean Valerie Hall delivering our prevention message to youth and doing such a fantastic job of inspiring them to stay safe, healthy and drug free.